Press releases

Unlocking Europe’s potential through accessibility

Goods and services that are not accessible constitute a major problem, says the Zero Project Report 2012

Brussels, 21 June 2012 – More than 70 parliamentarians, policy experts and representatives of disabled people’s organizations will gather today at the European Parliament for a high-level debate on how to unlock Europe’s potential through accessibility, under the lead of Dr Ádám Kósa MEP, the Essl Foundation and the World Future Council, and in collaboration with the European Disability Forum.

The findings of the international Zero Project Report 2012 will be presented to European decision makers, who will discuss how the European Union could best ensure that persons with disabilities and older people have access to the goods and services they need.

Dr Michael Fembek, Programme Manager of the Essl Foundation, says: “As highlighted by the Zero Project Report, widespread problems with accessibility continue to persist in very many European countries. Especially national emergency warning systems, public transport and medical practices were found not to be accessible to persons with disabilities and older people alike. The Zero Project will continue its work not only to identify the problems, but also to spread solutions, in line with its mission – for a world without barriers.”

Dr Ádám Kósa MEP, EPP, says: “A steadily growing number of European citizens find it increasingly hard to access every day services. With its resolution on the mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities on 25 October 2011, the European Parliament has already underlined that legislative action on a European level needs to be taken. I welcome therefore the Zero Project initiative. Its findings, together with close consultations with Hungarian authorities, have achieved that in my country the emergency warning system will be updated by next year fulfilling the needs of people with disabilities, providing a good example of how quickly the situation of people with disabilities can be taken into account at a member state level.”

“There is a pressing need for a European solution on accessibility”, states Donata Vivanti, Vice-President of the European Disability Forum. “In particular, automatized equipment like self-service machines or common household products such as washing machines or televisions are getting more and more complicated, if not impossible, to use, preventing many citizens from living independently. A strong and ambitious legally-binding legislation on accessibility could ensure that each European can enjoy the benefits of the internal market,” she said, in view of the draft European Accessibility Act which is expected to be released by the European Commission later this year.“

Accessibility is truly a cornerstone of an inclusive society,” states Ingrid Heindorf, Policy Officer for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the World Future Council. “With its concrete examples of good policy, the Zero Project presents policy solutions that include innovative elements advancing the access to, and the accessibility of, goods and services. The merits of elements like the enforceable accessibility standards (USA), the anticipatory reasonable adjustment duty and the disability equality duty (UK), the approach to accessibility in the built environment (Austria), the requirement of universal accessibility (Spain) as well as the obligation to universal design and the low-threshold enforcement system (Norway), should be recognized by all national legislators throughout Europe.”

The Zero Project envisions a world without barriers. It advocates the rights of persons with disabilities internationally by monitoring the national implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and by highlighting good policies and practices. Knowledge collected over the last several years by the Zero Project, in cooperation with over 100 experts from NGOs and foundations, academics and persons with disabilities, will be presented at the conference held this Thursday 21 June 2012, from 12:30 to 15:00 in Room: JAN 6Q1, European Parliament, Brussels. For more information download the programme and the Zero Project brochure "Findings on Accessibility of the Zero Project".

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